Thursday, January 27, 2022

Sports Person of the Week

Shamas Protects the Hornets’ Net

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Senior captain Nina Shamas in her second season as the starting goalie for the Branford field hockey team after making All-SCC and All-State as a junior. 

Photo courtesy of Nina Shamas

Senior captain Nina Shamas in her second season as the starting goalie for the Branford field hockey team after making All-SCC and All-State as a junior. (Photo courtesy of Nina Shamas)

Nina Shamas became a field hockey goalie during her freshman year at Branford High School. Nina quickly found her footing in the net and has since put together a solid career that saw her make All-State as a junior and then earn the title of captain for the Hornets in her senior season.

Nina started with field hockey in 5th grade, when she attended clinics run by the late Cathy McGuirk and her husband John. The next year, she began playing for the team at Walsh Intermediate School and coach Pete Frye. Nina, who had already been playing lacrosse, was intrigued by the intricacies of field hockey.

“I never really knew what field hockey was. It was introduced to me by Pete Frye. I really enjoyed how different it was from any of the other sports I played before,” Nina says. “I wanted to see what it was like to play a sport where you don’t have control of the ball. You have to work as a team.”

Nina primarily played on offense for the Walsh field hockey squad. However, in Nina’s freshman year at Branford, Frye, who was now the Hornets’ head coach, decided to have her become a goalkeeper. Moving over to goalie was a huge transition for Nina, but one that she was excited about.

“It was definitely a big adjustment from playing on the field. I was more of an offensive player in middle school. Adjusting back to the defensive side was something I had never done before,” says Nina. “But it was really exciting. As a middle school player, I was really aggressive. Pete realized becoming a goalie was probably better suited for me. It ended up working out pretty well.”

Nina played goalie for the JV team as a freshman and then spent her sophomore season cross-rostered between the JV and varsity levels. With Nina still new to the goalie position, having that JV experience under her belt made her feel more comfortable when her time came to start on varsity.

“Becoming a goalie takes a lot of skill. You have to have that down before you get the game sense. Having the skill and being able to communicate with my team is what I developed sophomore year,” Nina says. “Going into junior year, I had both skill and game sense under my belt. I was ready to take on anyone.”

Nina became the starting goalie for the Branford varsity field hockey team as a junior and started every game that season. Nina made an excellent debut in a campaign that saw her earn All-SCC Division A honors and All-State First Team accolades for her performance.

“It was surreal. I had seen all of these girls on the field that we played against earn First Team All-State and All-SCC. It was definitely shocking,” Nina says. “I didn’t know it was going to happen. I knew I was getting better at goalie, but it definitely took me by surprise.”

Coach Frye has mentored Nina for the past seven years with both the middle school and the high school teams. Frye says that having a player like Nina on the field makes the Hornets a much stronger club. However, Frye feels that the leadership Nina displays both on and off the field is what truly makes her a special person.

“Nina has brought very steady leadership. Her caring for her teammates and the well-being of our team is very obvious,” says Frye. “Nina is a really good player and an even better person.”

Nina’s leadership qualities did not go unnoticed heading into her senior season, as she was named a team captain for Branford alongside fellow seniors Lenora Longway and Julia McHenry. Nina felt honored to get selected as captain after looking up to the leaders that preceded her.

“It plays a really good role with being a goalie. Being a goalie is about leadership above anything else,” says Nina of being a captain. “My junior year, the seniors above me really helped me develop as a leader and take on a big role on the team. Junior year helped me get my voice out there. This year, becoming a captain was one of the best things.”

In addition to field hockey, Nina has also been a member of Branford’s girls’ lacrosse team since her freshman year. While her role as an attacker in lacrosse is the polar opposite of playing goal in field hockey, Nina says that her experience in both sports has helped grow as a leader and develop a strong IQ as an athlete.

Nina is making quite a name for herself as the Hornets’ netminder. As she dives into her senior season, Nina knows that playing field hockey for Branford is an experience that will stay with her long after she graduates.

“It means community above everything else,” Nina says. “We have a saying, ‘Tradition never graduates.’ This will always stick with me. I will always be a leader wherever I end up.”


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